All the way back in 1999, the legends of Nintendo were brought together in a crossover brawl for all of epic proportions when ‘Super Smash Bros’ was released on the Nintendo 64. Since then, the Smash Bros series has always raised the bar higher and higher with each sequel and downloadable content. Various other franchises have attempted their own big crossover games in the same gameplay style, but none have come close to the legendary series by Nintendo. This time, Nickelodeon enters the fray with ‘Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’ published by GameMill Entertainment and developed by Ludosity and Fair Play Labs.
To take on this ambitious task, a large library of well-known characters is of course needed and Nickelodeon has exactly that. 20 unique Nicktoons (technically 22 if you count Cat with Dog and Ren with Stimpy) from 13 different iconic shows are all available from the start including ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’, ‘The Wild Thornberrys’, ‘Aaahh!!! Real Monsters’, ‘Rugrats’, ‘Invader Zim’, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and more.
Much like the Smash Bros series (at least up until the Wii U game in 2014), matches can include two, three, or four characters duking it out at once in either a stock or timed battle. Battles are won by knocking the opponents off the stage and the higher the damage percentage a character has, the higher their chances of being eliminated. Whether it’s SpongeBob karate chopping, April O’Neil setting up camera equipment, or Aang, Toph, and Korra bending the elements, each Nicktoon has its own unique moves, abilities, and winning/losing animations that accurately represent their cartoon counterparts.
As good as the moves look, for the most part, there’s a lot of animation that looks very unfinished and the overall gameplay is very unpolished. One of the most noticeable things is when a player grabs an opponent to throw them. The character is already in position before the opponent is actually in their hands and they magically get moved to the right spot. Every time this happens, it’s painfully obvious the animation was left unfinished and this is only one example amongst so many.
As a fighting game, balance is very important and that is an aspect this game struggles with. The animations, regardless of attack strength, all move incredibly fast, lacking vital anticipation and cool down that would result in not only a better game feel but balance overall. A large amount of really powerful moves are as fast as most weaker moves, which results in very unbalanced gameplay. Even Avatar Aang and Avatar Korra couldn’t bring balance to the game.
The multiplayer can be fun both offline and online. The AI, however, during single-player gameplay shockingly lacks intelligence. There are many moments where AI opponents seem clueless on what to do and where to go, sometimes even falling off the stage themselves no matter the difficulty. One stage in particular, Space Madness, has platforms floating across the screen, which the AI really struggles with and the match can literally be won by just avoiding them while they eliminate themselves.
With a large cast of Nicktoons new and old on a game available on all the modern platforms, their iconic voices are expected to be heard, but no. Other than the announcer, there are literally no voice lines from any of the 20 characters at all. No “Smashing”, no “Cowabunga”, no “Happy, happy, joy, joy.” Not a single voice. Not even grunts or screams. Regardless of why voices weren’t included, the fact they’re not in the game is a tremendous shame, as it would’ve given the game more life and personality. All the sound effects you’d expect with characters being bashed, slammed, and blasted can be heard, but feel more on the generic side, lacking that feeling of impact. It’s also worth noting there are no sound effects when characters are running, not even by Reptar who’s the heaviest in the game.
20 stages are available, all representing their respective franchises. There are some clear design inspirations from Nintendo’s legendary series, but the majority of them are unique and creative, with some even including cameos from other Nicktoons in the background. As good as they look, some stages are very unclear where the edge of the platform is, causing confusion and unnecessary deaths. Each stage also has its own soundtrack, but nothing from the actual cartoons. Instead, it’s just generic music that fits the aesthetics of each stage, but really isn’t anything memorable.
Other modes include Arcade, where you battle a series of AI opponents and as explained above, they aren’t much of a challenge. Sports mode has players attacking a ball into the opponents’ goal, which is an interesting idea but gets old quickly. The Extras menu has all the generic music and unlockable art, which isn’t really a lot and hardly worth its own section. Online play is the game’s best feature and the one thing it does better than Smash Bros with its rollback netcode. Currently, plenty of opponents can be found online, but it’ll be interesting to see how long they’ll stick around.
It’s a great nostalgic feeling to see the various Nicktoons together from the past few decades. It’s hard to not make comparisons to Smash Bros, as even their very first game from 1999 is far more polished and had more content. The overall presentation from the menus, loading screens, results, etc, are also incredibly lacklustre along with the repetitive music. It’s a fun party game not to be taken seriously but it has too much going against it. Of course, this could be fixed with future patches along with possible DLC characters. It remains to be seen whether it’s enough to keep players around, particularly while there’s a far better and well-established alternative out there. Overall ‘Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’ feels more like a fun fan-made game than an actual Nickelodeon product.
- 20 Nicktoons from 13 iconic Nickelodeon shows
- 20 stages representing their respective franchises
- Simple, fun and easy to learn party game
- Nicktoons’ moves, abilities and winning/losing animations accurately representing their cartoon counterparts
- Online play with rollback netcode
- Looks and feels very unfinished and unpolished
- Generic sound effects lack the feeling of impact
- No voice lines. From anyone. At all!
- Lacklustre presentation from the menus, loading screens, results etc
- Repetitive and generic music
- Lacks a lot of content
- Feels more like a fun fan-made game than an actual Nickelodeon product